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Improve your home

11th July 2021

The pandemic, and the lockdowns that followed, have seen us spend more time at home than ever before.

And for many people, the way we use our space has changed too. Maybe your bedroom doubles as your office, or you put an exercise bike in the shed when the gyms were shut.

Most families had to find a corner to create a classroom too.

And we've all had time to notice the things we love - and perhaps don't love so much - about our homes.

It's no wonder so many of us are thinking about changing where we live - whether that's moving or improving.

But buying a new place, or refreshing your current one, is a major financial commitment.

This Q&A guide will give you ideas about how to make the most of where you live.

Should I move or improve?

If your working arrangements have changed, you may no longer need to live within close commuting distance of a city. Moving further out, or even to a different part of the country, means you may be able to afford the extra space - inside and out - that became so important in lockdown.

But you need to consider the cost of moving. According to research by comparison site Reallymoving, in the UK, property transaction taxes, legal fees, removals and other associated costs come to an average of around £11,000, although that fell to around £6,700 during the stamp duty holiday.

And if you do still need to travel to work, make sure you factor in increased commuting costs. Of course, waking up surrounded by green fields or the salt tang of the sea, closer to family and friends, or just in a bigger house, may be worth every penny.

If you're happy where you are, just not with the state of your current four walls, then home improvement may be the answer. Read on to find out more about the types of improvements that could work for you, and how to pay for them.

Are home improvements worth it?

Some improvements, such as a newly fitted kitchen or bathroom are unlikely to add value to your home, but they may give it the wow factor that makes it easier to sell when the time comes. And of course, you will have the enjoyment of spending time in them - only you can decide if that is worth the expense.

But adding extra rooms can boost the value of your house by more than the cost.

Some of the most common ways to do this would be to convert the loft to add an extra bedroom, increase the size of your kitchen, create an open-plan dining area or simply add living space. Garden rooms can also create a stylish space for a home office, gym or studio.

Every home is different, and you should always do your research, and consult experts before you proceed with any project.

How can I pay for it?

Creating extra space in your home can cost tens of thousands of pounds, and depending on your circumstances, it may not be realistic to save up in the necessary timeframe.

For smaller projects, an unsecured loan may be an option, typically paid back over one to five years. Make a household budget to ensure you can afford the repayments, and check the interest rate you are offered, which may be higher than the rate advertised.

For larger projects, it may be suitable to borrow against your home, by taking out a secured home improvement loan or remortgaging for a higher amount.

Lenders will check you can afford the new repayments, and you will need the same proof of income and expenditure as when you originally applied.

If you are remortgaging for a higher amount this will also increase your LTV - loan to value ratio - which may in turn increase the interest rate you are offered.

If you take a secured home improvement loan, be aware that your house can be repossessed if you fail to make repayments, even if you are up to date with your mortgage.

Check the total cost of borrowing, over the full mortgage or loan term, to see if it is the best course of action for you.

And, however you are funding the work, it is vital to make a budget for the project, including a contingency fund for unforeseen expenses, and stick to it.

What next?

Major home improvements are a huge undertaking. Deciding to take the plunge, and the best way to pay for it, is just the beginning.

You may need to navigate planning permission, building regulations, party wall agreements, architects, and of course finding and managing your builders.

Click here for a home renovation guide from the Federation of Master Builders.

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